Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

September 23, 2013

Deputies, Corps keep tabs on parks

TAHLEQUAH — Cherokee County sheriff’s deputy Jim Burton has been dealing with drunken squabbles around Lake Tenkiller for the past seven years.

“Most people go to the lake to have a good time, and overall, we’ve got good people who come here,” said Burton, a former western-Oklahoma police chief who has been in law enforcement for 45 years. “You see a little bit of everything; it’s sort of like different communities out here.”

Burton was initially hired by Sheriff Norman Fisher’s office to patrol several U.S. Army Corps of Engineers campgrounds from April through September, Wednesday through Sunday nights.

Burton now has those duties three days a week, while Deputy Jarrick Snyder takes the eight-hour shifts on Saturday and Sunday nights.

The two deputies patrol nine sites, along with Corps rangers, during the peek tourist season, helping to settle disputes that range from minor disturbances to the occasional brawl.

“It’s a law enforcement job, but like Sheriff Fisher says, it’s also public relations – talking to people, welcoming them to the area, making sure everything is OK while they are here at the lake,” said Snyder.

Burton and Snyder both believe patrolling Corps properties helps deter criminal activity.

“You stop to talk to people, you help settle little squabbles,” said Burton. “You talk with the gate attendants, and they can usually tell you which campsites you might have problems with.”

Issues that surface are quite often over petty matters, Burton has learned.

“Alcohol is usually involved. Most of it is just one neighbor against another – an OSU fan camping next to an OU fan,” said Burton.

Undersheriff Jason Chennault said the contract between the sheriff’s office and Corps provides what is essentially an extra officer who stays on the south end of the county.

“Since the deputies are down there so much, they know the happenings and the goings-on of the area, which is beneficial,” said Chennault. “During the summer season, that’s where most of the population is, so our volume of calls is heavier there.”

Lack of options leads to alcohol arrests

Snyder pulls into the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office a little early on a humid Saturday evening before heading out to Corps patrol.

By 5 p.m., Snyder is rolling in to Horseshoe Bend. He stops to talk with a couple fishing from the banks.

Snyder checks a few more Corps sites and decides to head farther south, but dispatchers divert him to Cherokee Landing State Park, where an unusual situation necessitates an officer. Callers witnessed a man groping an unconscious woman along the shoreline of the park, where children are swimming and boaters are launching their crafts onto the lake.

Snyder and park rangers find a woman passed out in a chair and an older man in the water claims to be her boyfriend. Witnesses confirm to authorities they have found the alleged law-breaker. He trudges out of the water to speak with authorities, but denies doing anything inappropriate to his girlfriend.

The ground near the passed-out woman is a sea of empty beer cans.

“We’ve been camping out of our car,” the man says.

Authorities determine the man and woman are both drunk. They can’t be allowed to stay in the park – they haven’t paid to do so – but because of their alcohol consumption, neither can drive away. Deputies decide to arrest them for public intoxication and let them spend the night in the Cherokee County Detention Center, where they can sober up.

Deputies, Corps rangers keep tabs on parks

Burton and Snyder believe cooperation and communication with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers rangers is important, and often allows the two agencies to keep small matters from turning into serious situations.

“If there are any problems, we can relay the complaints back and forth,” said Burton.

One early summer Saturday, Snyder pulls into Standing Rock and stops at a travel trailer that’s been parked in the same spot for a week. He’s never seen occupants at the trailer, and decides to check on them. He knocks on the door, with no answer.

Snyder radios a park ranger familiar with the area and asks about the trailer. The two decide to check back later before determining whether it should be considered vacant.

“We’ve been here about a week, but went home for the weekend because of the storms,” one camper says when the group returns later in the evening.

Severe weather kicked up a series of storms that put Sequoyah and Cherokee counties under several tornado warnings that weekend. At Snake Creek and Chicken Creek, campers and park employees report that high winds from the storms toppled trees; a few campers claim to have footage of a funnel touching down on the lake.

The weather has, at least temporarily, impacted the number of lake visitors.

“Lake traffic can change in a heartbeat when we have severe weather,” said Snyder.

Summer season fades away

As the summer comes to an end, crowds at the lake become smaller and consist mainly of visitors who come to the area as a home-away-from-home. Most others seem to be local folks who drop by the lake for a day of fun in the sun.

It’s a quiet Sunday. Radio traffic is non-existent around the lake, and Corps rangers report a quiet weekend.

Night falls and Snyder decides to drive through Pettit Bay. He turns toward the park, off of Indian Road, and soon is approached by a vehicle heading the opposite direction. That truck suddenly swerves into Snyder’s lane with its bright lights on. The truck’s lights go off, and the driver swerves back into the opposite lane before again flashing his bright lights at Snyder, who swerves to avoid hitting the truck. Snyder pulls into the next driveway, hoping to catch the vehicle, but the driver of the truck has turns off all vehicle lights as soon as he passes Snyder.

Using his spotlight, Snyder tries to spot the truck on both sides of the road, but is unable to find it. After searching the area for several minutes, Snyder decides to head back to Pettit Bay. He pulls in , but dispatchers soon call out for “Cherokee 13,” Snyder’s badge number.

A family who lives near Pettit Bay tells dispatchers a truck has pulled into their field; they believe the occupants were fleeing from law enforcement.

Snyder responds and finds the truck abandoned on private property, a short distance from where it disappeared. The bed of the small truck contains fishing poles and tackle. Deputies find drug items inside the vehicle, but a thorough search of the area turns up no driver or passenger. Deputies believe the owner of the truck will surface sooner rather than later – but until then, the truck gets a trip out of the area on the back of a tow truck.

Though summer crowds have waned, deputies know a quiet evening can quickly turn into something much more.

Corps patrol by deputies will end in late September. Until then, authorities will still be making their rounds, hoping to keep visitors and area residents safe.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • jn-WEB-truck-fire.jpg Up in flames

    Truck fire could impact city’s trash services

    Operations at Tahlequah’s solid waste transfer station will be impacted by the loss of a 2008 Freightliner destroyed by fire Wednesday night.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • svw-gasoline.jpg Ethanol or regular gasoline? Dealers, mechanics disagree over what’s best

    Oklahoma is one of the few states with refineries producing pure gasoline and E10.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • NSU-fountain.jpg University heads in Oklahoma average $216,000 per year

    First in a three-part series about higher education compensation and how it compares with pay for rest of the state

    For years, area legislators, administrators of state agencies and state employees have been critical of cuts to programs and flat budgets. But while programs may be shaved and salaries for higher education professors may be stagnant, administrative costs seem to be exploding on many campuses.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • ishcomer-elizabeth.jpg Woman picked up for child endangerment

    A 41-year-old woman was released from jail this week after Tahlequah officers arrested her on child endangerment and drug charges.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • mcgregor-michael.jpg Two jailed after false 911 report made

    Two people were jailed Wednesday after a woman allegedly made a false report to 911 dispatchers.

    August 1, 2014 2 Photos

  • TPS looking to fill several positions before school starts

    The Tahlequah I-35 Board of Education held a special meeting last night, to bring more certified personnel and support staff on board before school starts.

    August 1, 2014

  • svw-beagles-MAIN.jpg Going to the dogs

    Hounds at center stage for more than just Red Fern Festival

    Larry Blackman and Titus Blanket have always loved dogs, especially beagles. In their respective roles as president and vice president of the Cherokee County Beagle Club, they’ve turned that love into a passion.

    July 31, 2014 2 Photos

  • sanders-jeri.jpg Murder charge against mother of dead boy, 3, dismissed

    A first-degree murder charge has been dropped against a 37-year-old mother accused in the death of her 3-year-old son.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • supersalary.jpg Okla. superintendents paid comparatively well; teachers 46th lowest

    Administrators say they work year-round, have other duties

    As public education in Oklahoma continues to feel the pinch of a shrinking state budget, watchdog groups and district patrons across the state are asking whether superintendents are getting a disproportionate piece of the financial pie.

    July 31, 2014 2 Photos

  • Boards keep city, county afloat

    City and county officials rely on a variety of boards to oversee diverse and complex issues, and many of their members work behind the scenes to keep the wheels of government oiled and turning.
    The city of Tahlequah currently has 10 boards and three trust authorities. Cherokee County has two county-specific boards.

    July 31, 2014

Poll

Do you think "blue laws" related to Sunday alcohol sales in Oklahoma should be relaxed? Choose the option that most closely reflects your opinion.

Alcoholic drinks should be sold Sundays in restaurants and bars, and liquor stores should be open.
Alcoholic drinks should be sold Sundays in restaurants and bars only; liquor stores should stay closed.
Liquor stores should be open Sundays, but drinks should not be served anywhere on Sundays.
The law should remain as it is now; liquor stores should be closed, and drinks should be served on Sundays according to county option.
No alcohol should be sold or served publicly on Sundays.
Undecided.
     View Results
Tahlequah Daily Press Twitter
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
Renewed Violence Taking Toll on Gaza Residents 2 Americans Detained in North Korea Seek Help US Employers Add 209K Jobs, Rate 6.2 Pct House GOP Optimistic About New Border Bill Gaza Truce Unravels; Israel, Hamas Trade Blame Raw: Tunisia Closes Borders With Libya Four Rescued From Crashed Plane Couple Channel Grief Into Soldiers' Retreat WWI Aviation Still Alive at Aerodrome in NY Raw: Rescuers at Taiwan Explosion Scene Raw: Woman Who Faced Death Over Faith in N.H. Clinton Before 9-11: Could Have Killed Bin Laden Netanyahu Vows to Destroy Hamas Tunnels Obama Slams Republicans Over Lawsuit House Leaders Trade Blame for Inaction
Stocks